The 4th annual Rock4EB! had all the typical ingredients of a hit backyard party including great food (D'amore's Pizza, Pink's Hot Dogs, Little Beach House Malibu and Sprinkles Cupcakes), an A-list guest list (Brad Pitt, Courteney Cox, Kaley Cuoco, Aaron and Sam Taylor-Johnson, Rami Malek, Cindy Crawford and Heidi Klum) and a stunning setting (hilltop Malibu home of Brillstein-Entertainment Partners' Marc Gurvitz).Inside the Rock4EB! fundraiser with Brad Pitt, Sting, chatty celebs and a worthy cause https://t.co/oBrzhGeC40 pic.twitter.com/uxPS08h7iY— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) January 17, 2017
It was the music and the cause, however, that elevated this Saturday afternoon event far above the average Hollywood fundraiser. Hosted this year by title sponsor Alex & Ani, the Rock4EB! event featured a relaxed and radiant Sting on stage alongside rocker Chris Cornell, and the entire package served as a benefit for the Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation (EBMRF). The organization is the leading funder of research for the rare and life threatening skin disease EB, sometimes referred to as "the worst disease you've never heard of" by those in the know.
But Brillstein power manager Andrea Pett-Joseph is not one lacking intel. Her son, 12-year-old Brandon Joseph, has it and thus, his skin is as fragile as a butterfly's wing. (The slightest touch can cause tearing, blistering and bleeding. Growth can be stunted while limbs, including hands, may be disfigured.) Pett-Joseph and husband Paul Joseph started the charity and leaned on friends, family and colleagues to launch the Rock4EB! event. This year, it opened to the media for the first time, a move designed to increase awareness and, eventually, funds for research.
"For a lot of us standing here tonight, we know what it's like to live with EB and most of the time it sucks. Those moments of pain are overshadowed by the moments of joy and tonight is one of those moments," Pett-Joseph said onstage, flanked by her husband and son. "To quote a sign in my office: Life may not be the party you hoped for, but while we are here, let’s dance."
There wasn't a ton of dancing, but there were laughs. Pett-Jospeh introduced the opening entertainer — Chip Baskets aka Zach Galifianakis. "Let me be honest, I don't want to be here. This is a no-win situation for me. I do not want to open for Sting — I am not worth it," he joked, before announcing that Lee Greenwood would be filling in for Cornell. Not true, but the crowd seemed to appreciate the inauguration tie-in, and his brief stand-up routine.
There was plenty of talking too. Longtime advocates of the disease Cox and Cuoco were keen to help spread the word on behalf of Brandon. It was Cox (a client of Pett-Joseph's sister Cynthia) who noted the change in publicity surrounding this year's event. "They've done these events but we've never had to take pictures or do interviews and that's great, but it's not actually spreading the word," explained Cox, who was applauded by Pett-Joseph as a steadfast supporter, integral in the event's success. "There's nothing that I wouldn't do to support and bring awareness to that kid."
Cuoco, a client of Pett-Joseph's for 15 years, said she's known Brandon his whole life. "I adore him," she gushed to THR. "Early on, I had never heard of the disease and couldn't even pronounce it, but once I found out what it is, what it does to these kids and what they have to go through, it has now become No. 1 on the priority list forever. It has to be stopped."
Speaking of cut-offs, Cuoco added that she heard the guest list had to be closed due to a max amount of RSVPs. "Why you see so many people here and all these amazing celebrities who come out is because it’s not a typical event," the actress noted, also adding that the sunny Malibu day was a gift from the Gods following a week of rain in the area. "There’s no red carpet and people are here because they want to be here and they want to help make a change and see this disease to go away. When you see what it does to a child, you don’t forget it."
Prior to Sting's performance, a video reel showed a clip of a Stockton, Calif., man in his mid-30s named Paul Martinez. He's been living with EB since birth and the footage of his daily process to wrap his blistered body in bandages likely will prove Cuoco's point — when you see what the disease does, you don't forget. As Martinez made his way to the stage, he received a standing ovation.
Also likely is how guests will remember Brandon's courage in facing down the capacity crowd and reading a poem that rhythmically told the foundation's story. “Our job is not to profit from the dollars that we raise, but to generate new funding and do good along the way," he read. "So when you ask, 'What will my dollar do,' and, 'Is it really a big deal?' We say yes. It all adds up and you are helping wounds to heal." ("Hamilton, you got nothing on this kid," Pett-Joseph joked after his poetic interlude.)
Then it was Sting and Cornell's turn to entertain the crowd and close out the evening. The former even brought out his eldest son, Joe Sumner, at one point in the evening. Sumner was accompanied by his own son, a 2-year-old that caught the attention of Galifianakis during his set. The comedian jokingly dubbed the tot a "heckler."
One of the nicest things we can do is be kind. I witnessed #BradPitt get out of his car to make this girl's dream come true last night. She lives with EB and had to use crutches. I told her I would video the experience for her, so she could watch it every time she wanted to smile. We are all here to pass it forward. #rock4eb
Very cool night in Malibu: @OfficialSting performs at #Rock4EB, welcomes Brad Pitt to stage to introduce fellow rocker @chriscornell. pic.twitter.com/hRzc7tjRjV— Chris Gardner (@chrissgardner) January 15, 2017
Days after surprise #GoldenGlobes outing, Brad Pitt onstage next to @OfficialSting @ #Rock4EB to introduce @chriscornell, says he's big fan pic.twitter.com/j36RbWvuvC— Chris Gardner (@chrissgardner) January 15, 2017
On Saturday night, jeweller Alex And Ani and the Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation hosted the fourth annual ROCK4EB! in Malibu.
He's holding what looks like a glass, but it isn't a wine glass with a stem. A reflection of his finger is visible on the side. No visible colored liquid inside the glass. It could be water.
Thanks to Lune lace for the Getty link.